Knowing which is the correct spelling of a word is hugely complicated by words which sound the same. For example, when we say your and you’re or there, their and they’re, they sound exactly the same and, of course, we learn to speak way before we learn to write, so the sounds become embedded before we know the words are spelt differently. These words are known as homophones.
The reverse of this, and adding to the confusion, are words that are spelt the same but have different meanings. Again, it’s only when you learn to write that you realise the words wind and wind are spelt the same. These words are known as homographs.
Some of us believe it’s important to get punctuation right (or as right as we can – this is my get-out-of-jail-free-card in case I’ve made any mistakes here!) whereas, for many people, it means very little.
The big question is; given how fluid language is, does it really matter? Please don’t ask Lynn Truss that question – Lynn is the author of the highly entertaining ‘Eats, Shoots and Leaves‘ and is famous for carrying a felt-tip pen and Tippex with her so she’s able to correct punctuation in the wording on signs!
If you consider how way language evolves over time and how each generation introduces new words (texted, bromance, bling, chillax) into our everyday language, including words that never existed before (like Google), then the answer is mildly yes but probably mostly not really.
That doesn’t make it okay to get things wrong but, in everyday life, there are probably more important things to worry about than somebody typing their when they meant there and your when they mean you’re in a text, WhatsApp, or email.
However, when it’s made public, and/or permanent, it’s way more important to get it right, especially when your business is words, such as a newspaper editor, Copywriter, advertiser or a sign-writer, when mistakes are just plain unprofessional, not to mention embarrassing. Of course, having spelling mistakes tattooed on your body takes this to a whole other level!